The Harpy Dance

I spent today working on Ariel’s Harpy dance! Some of it was quite nice, some of it looks a bit awkward, but the puppet did surprisingly well. She was good at the challenging Kabuki backwards bends and she held on to the feathers tightly! Unfortunately however today was the first serious puppet injury and her right hand came off completely. Thank heavens for the long kimono sleeves and some masking tape. Poor Ariel!


The second day shooting went a little better, I felt more comfortable with Dragon software, and since the lighting was already set up I could begin animating sooner. I needed to put in more in-betweens than the day before, so I re-shot some sequences and gave different camera angles. Hopefully it will work when I start cutting it together today. Yesterday I had to repair the puppets, repaint Prospero’s hooves and smooth out Ariel’s neck and wrists where the plasticine had cracked. I’ve also changed her costume ready to go back in the rostrum room on Monday morning.

Screen shots and photos on set:

First Kimono

Forgot to put Ariel’s finished first costume. Prospero playing the Samisen.

Costume Change

Another day working on the puppets, padding out their bodies, affixing the heads and a bit of painting and working out Ariel’s second costume. So close to the end of the puppet making stage, tomorrow is the last day for finishing touches, before the animating finally begins!

Harpy Kimono Front:

Harpy Kimono Back:


After seeing Sadayakko’s hair I went to Screen Face, the make-up artist shop, and bought some crepe hair, it’s the stuff they use to make fake beards in theatre. I stitched a miniature skull-cap and then sewed sections of crepe hair to that. Prospero’s wig and beard are made from some fake fur I had already. Then I plan to just pin them in place.

I recalled the researched I did at the beginning of the project and I looked back at the Lion wig and costume in Kabuki. I really like the idea of referencing Kabuki’s use of wigs by giving my puppets miniature wigs rather than making it their hair.

When styling Prospero’s wig I also looked at the ‘100 day wig.’ A style of wig that shows 100 days worth of growth on a man’s head where he normally (in feudal Japan) would have shaved it. This wig is characteristic not only of villainous and untrustworthy characters, but also heroes in exile, perhaps even ship-wrecked!



I made the armatures out of aluminium wire and milliput. Thicker wire for the spine and two strands of thinner wire twisted for the arms. Then I bound the parts together. This was the best method, both Darryl and Steve both suggested to go about things in this way rather than going for a very expensive and heavy armature kit (or the flimsy thing i made first!) The college shop is marvellously well stocked and really cheap for these things. I also went to Tiranti on warren Street (a sculpture supplies store) and the London Graphic Centre.

After some trouble with fimo I opted for plasticine heads and hands that I re-sculpted and updated the design from the first versions. Prosperos eyes are now beads and Ariel just has heavy eyelids instead of eyes. Anyway, I’ve learnt so much about puppet making that I had no idea about before, I’m sure if I did another stop-motion project I’d know how to go about it, having made mistakes. One thing with stop-motion is you just have to spend some money on the necessary bits and bobs, I tried to avoid doing that at first, bad idea! if you want them to move. What about the actual stop-motion animation? That’s the next adventure…

Ariel’s head is more feminine than the previous one and not as grotesque as before. In this photo it looks rather like a Peruvian mummy… especially when I add the proper hair!

Prospero’s head. So he’s a pale grey, I added in some elements of the Tanuki, a raccoon-dog native to japan. He’s now a horse-goat-dog-raccoon with the body of a man.


Saddayakko, was a enterprising figure in Japanese theatre. She travelled the Paris, Italy and America and brought the arts of Japanese theatre and Gei to an Orientally thirsty Paris. Japonisme was big in fin-de-siecle Paris, artists including Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Manet were seeking inspiration from Ukiyo-e woodcuts and kimono prints that were refreshing and modern to the European eye. Naturally they were captivated by Sadayakko’s traditional Japanese performances. It was at this time that Giaccamo Puccini travelled to Milan to see her perform and shape the character of Madame Butterfly accordingly. Symbolist poet Jean Lorrain described  Sadayakko as “a kind of hallucination caused by opium from the Far East. She is as elegant and gentle as Utamaro’s ukiyoe.”

The main reason I included a post about Sadayakko is this photograph of her as Ophelia that immediately inspired me to alter my Ariel puppet. I decided to give it thick, wild hair and also to resculpt the eyes as heavy down-cast eyelids.

Below Sadayakko impresses the Parisians in 1900, with her on-stage costume changes!